If you’re thinking about moving somewhere in Pennsylvania, either from out of state or within, one of the first questions you’ll want to ask yourself is “What can I afford?” Unfortunately, most places don’t exactly advertise how affordable they are (or not)—and even the ones that do usually mention things like cost of living or residents’ incomes; but when it comes to overall affordability, there’s much more that goes into it.
That’s why we’re taking the work out of it for you. The Movoto Real Estate Blog is finding out just which places are the most affordable in each state, all factors considered. We’ll talk more about those criteria in a moment, but for now, let’s take a look at the 10 most affordable places in Pennsylvania, starting with the winner, Munhall:
1. Borough of Munhall2. Borough of West Mifflin2. Elizabeth Township4. City of Erie5. Borough of Plum6. Borough of Baldwin7. Borough of Whitehall8. Municipality of Bethel Park9. City of Pittsburgh9. Borough of Wilkinsburg
If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, you probably notice a pattern here: a nine of these places are located in Allegheny County. Why is this area so affordable? Keep reading for the answer to that question and more.
How We Created This Ranking
We started by gathering a list of places in Pennsylvania with populations over 10,000 residents according to the U.S. Census, which left us with a total of 68 places. From there, we used the criteria below to study each place and give it a score from 1 to 68, with one being the best:
- Food costs
- Utility costs
- Miscellaneous costs (restaurants, repairs, entertainment, and clothing)
- Median home price
- Unemployment rank
- Adjusted median income
From there, we averaged these numbers to get an overall Big Deal Score, in which Munhall had the lowest score and was our winner.
We decided to calculate the adjusted median income for each place in order to take into account how much residents were making in terms of the cost of living there. For example, if it seems like residents are making a great deal more money in one city than another, if the cost of living of the first city is much higher than the other, it balances out. We calculated this adjusted median income by dividing the place’s median household income by the cost of living, and then multiplying this number by 100.
To see the rankings of the top 50 most affordable places in the Keystone State, you can skip to the bottom of the post for a complete list. Otherwise, we’ll take a closer look at the 10 most affordable places in the state, starting with our winner, Munhall.
Source: Wikipedia user Lee Paxton
This relatively small borough of just over 11,000 residents is one of the original seven townships in Pennsylvania, and even with its various entertainment, shopping, and dining options at The Waterfront, still manages to remain affordable for residents.
In fact, according to our analysis, it was precisely for things like clothing, restaurants, and entertainment that Munhall scored so well; it ranked as one of the best for its cost of miscellaneous expenses, a score of 98, where the national average is 100 and the Pennsylvania average is 102. With a utilities cost of living of 103, Munhall also came in better than a majority of places in Pennsylvania. Even though it is three percent higher than the national average here, it is still six percent lower than the state’s average.
2. West Mifflin
Source: Wikipedia user Ski2007
With an overall cost of living of 88, where Pennsylvania’s is 101, West Mifflin is already off to a good start. Add to this a relatively high adjusted median household income of $50,216, a cost of living for miscellaneous expenses four percent lower than the state average, and a utilities score nine points lower than the state average, and it’s easy to see why West Mifflin ranked so highly in our analysis.
This is good news in an area where you can hit the roller coasters over the weekend, end your Sunday with some Handel’s homemade ice cream, and then start your Monday with lunch at Jim’s Famous Sauce. After all, the less you spend on things like utilities, the more can spend on cheese dogs.
Source: Wikipedia user Canadian2006
Tied with West Mifflin for our No. 2 spot was Elizabeth. This borough in Allegheny County couldn’t quite compete with West Mifflin’s adjusted household income, but it made up for that when it came to its costs of utilities, miscellaneous expenses, and its low median home price of just $75,800.
To put that into perspective, take a look at West Chester where the median home price is $296,800. Of course, this is quite a bit higher than the median home price of the state, $146,407, but it’s a good example of just how varied Pennsylvania’s real estate is. If you need any more reason to consider Elizabeth, just head to Becky’s Place and order the chocolate chip pancakes.
Source: Flickr user CatASmith
As the state’s fourth-largest city with a population of just over 100,000 people, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that it is also one of the state’s least expensive—especially when you consider all there is to do here.
You can head to the beach at the Presque Isle State Park, then go to Sara’s for a burger, eat a donut larger than your head on Parade Street and, according to our analysis, do it all for less. In fact, the cost of food in particular in Erie is three percent lower than the state average; but if donuts aren’t your thing, don’t worry. Erie also ranked as the very least expensive when it came to cost of utilities and miscellaneous expenses, with a score of 91 and 94, respectively.
Source: Wikipedia user Lee Paxton
Like Elizabeth, Plum is a borough in Allegheny County, though it scored well on our list for some very different reasons. First of all, Plum’s overall cost of living is a 97—which is not terribly low, considering the state’s overall cost of living is a 101, and the national average is a 100.
However, with a high income of $66,700, Plum’s adjusted median household income, in terms of cost of living, is an impressive $68,763, making it one of the best in terms of this criterion. Like the rest in our top 10, Plum also scored well for its low cost of utilities (103), miscellaneous (98), and an unemployment rate of just 6.4 percent. All of this and some of the Pittsburgh area’s best Indian food at Zaiaka? This place is a real peach. Well, you know what we mean.
Source: Google Maps
Just outside of Pittsburgh, Baldwin is a close-knit community, full of family friendly things to do, from plentiful parks and swimming pools to community events like parades and fireworks. What really makes Baldwin unique, though, is its affordability—particularly when you consider the median household income of $51,067, adjusted for the borough’s overall cost of living of 95.
Like the others in our top 10, Baldwin also did well with a utilities score 6 percent below the state’s and a miscellaneous cost of living score 4 percent lower.
Source: Google Maps
Like our other top 10 places in Allegheny County, Whitehall had a low cost of utilities, miscellaneous expenses, and a low unemployment rate. Where Whitehall truly stood out, though, was by placing as the 12th highest in terms of adjusted median household income. With an overall cost of living of 97 and a median household income of $50,301, the adjusted median household income in Whitehall is $51,857—that’s over $2,000 greater than the state’s median household income.
All of this is found in a family-friendly community centered around the beautiful South Hills Country Club, a wonderful public library, a swimming pool, four tennis courts, and plenty of parks, fields, and playgrounds.
8. Bethel Park
Source: Flickr user openprivacy
Located in the south hills of Pittsburgh, Bethel Park is home to a variety of homes, shopping, community events, and things to do, like running along the Montour Trail and dining at the Bethel Bakery. Luckily for residents, like the other Allegheny County places, Bethel Park ranked well for its low miscellaneous costs in particular, meaning things like entertainment and restaurants are less expensive here.
Bethel Park may have had an overall cost of living of 101, which is on par with the Pennsylvania cost of living and 1 percent higher than the U.S. average, but because of residents’ high median household income, the area is actually quite affordable. So affordable, in fact, that Bethel Park placed fifth in the category of adjusted median household income.
Source: Flickr user szeke
With nearly 306,000 residents, Pittsburgh is easily the largest place in our top 10, and yet it’s surprisingly affordable. For example, Pittsburgh’s overall cost of living is a low 88, compared to the national index of 100 and the Pennsylvania index of 101; and the median home price in Pittsburgh is nearly half the median home price of Pennsylvania: $85,200 compared to $146,407.
Like the smaller places we’ve mentioned in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh also had a low cost of utilities and miscellaneous expenses, a score of 103 and 98, respectively, and an unemployment rate of just 6.4 percent; one of the lowest in the state. This means attractions like PNC Park, Phipps Conservatory, and Frick Art & Historical Center, restaurants like Tamari and the Capital Grille, and shopping in the Strip District, are all less expensive in Steel City.
Source: Wikipedia user Nyttend
Tied for the No. 9 spot on our list with Pittsburgh was yet another borough in Allegheny County. With a population of nearly 16,000 residents, Wilkinsburg isn’t exactly tiny, but the concentration of beautiful old churches, community events (like the recent parade and celebration of its 25th anniversary), and an overall cost of living of just 83 might have you thinking you’ve stepped into a small town from the good old days.
Aside from its overall low cost of living and the low costs of utilities, miscellaneous expenses, and low unemployment rate, this borough stood out for its unusually low median home price of just $67,000. Considering the national median home value is $200,419 and Pennsylvania's is $146,407, it is no wonder Wilkinsburg made our top 10.
The Least Affordable Places in Pennsylvania
Now that we’ve gone over our most affordable places in Pennsylvania, we feel we’d be shortchanging you if we didn’t at least mention the five most expensive. They are Yeadon, Darby, Chester, West Chester, and the final and most expensive place in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. So, if you’re really looking for some Brotherly Love (for yourself and your wallet), you might do better heading for Munhall.